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Sue Bush
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QuitLinks Carnival A Near-Perfect Event

By Susan Bush
07:50AM / Sunday, June 24, 2007

Cynthia Bolte, 7, enjoyed a spool of free cotton candy during a June 23 QuitLinks carnival held at the Western Gateway Heritage State Park. [Photo by Sue Bush]
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North Adams - Yesterday's QuitLinks four-hour family carnival drew about four hundred people to the Western Gateway Heritage State Park for free popcorn, cotton candy, snow cones, and games and entertainment.

Families And Fun:"Terrific"

QuitLinks is a smoking cessation program that targets pregnant women and mothers but health information offered at the event was not limited to smoking cessation. Dozens of Berkshire region agencies hosted information booths during the carnival.

BerkshireRides program coordinator Jana Hunkler Brule staffed an agency temporary tattoo booth with help from 13-year-old Kalynn Drummond.

"It's a great way for families to have a lot of fun, for free, and spread the word about the many community agencies," Hunkler Brule said.

Shannon Shurtleff attended the carnival with her four-year-old sister and her three-year-old daughter. The games and activities kept the children entertained and the information was extremely helpful to her, Shurtleff said.

"My little one has asthma and I'm hoping to get good information about quitting smoking," she said. "I want to quit smoking."

Bowey the Clown was among the carnival entertainers. [Photo by Sue Bush]
Christmas Brook Skating Club skaters and club officials said they participated at the carnival because of the health rewards skating can deliver. Club president Lisa Waltermire and Board of Directors members Hanne Booth and Sara Senecal agreed that ice skating is a disciplined sport that provided physical activity, discourages smoking, and may be enjoyed throughout a lifetime.

REACH Community Health Foundation Breast Health Program Director Polly Macpherson was among the carnival's most popular volunteers. Macpherson operated a popcorn machine and was almost in constant motion as she handed out paper cones filled with freshly-popped corn.

"I think this is terrific," she said. "To have so many families coming out here and doing all these things for free, it's just a great experience for families and kids."

Priscilla Savary and Carrie Savary brought children Jessica Savary, 15 months old, and two-year-old Michaela Savary to the carnival.

Carrie Savary lives in the Northfield, N.H. area and came to the city to visit family and attend the event.

"This is really good and I wish we had stuff like this in the area of New Hampshire I come from," she said.

Don't Forget June 25 "Dirt Day"

Child Care of the Berkshires Inc. volunteers erected a booth to promote summer play groups and tomorrow evening's very popular pre-school and toddler event "Dirt Day."

"Dirt Day" is set to begin at Kemp Park on Kemp Avenue at 5:30 p.m. and conclude at 7:30 p.m.. Children are able to play in mounds of dirt and pails and shovels are provided. The first 75 children to arrive at the event will receive a t-shirt. organizers reminded people that children often become covered with the dirt and recommended bringing a change of clothes so that the soiled clothing may be removed at the park when the event has concluded.

Information about Child Care of the Berkshires and the many programs offered by the entity is available at a Internet web site.

Nothing Like A Cool Dip On A Chilly Day

A dunking booth kept many children entertained and several "wet seat" volunteers drenched. Among those who were repeatedly sent tumbling into chilly water by well-aimed pitching arms were state Sen. Benjamin B. Downing D-Pittsfield, Northern Berkshire Healthcare Inc. Director of Community Relations Paul Hopkins and Northern Berkshire Community Coalition Community Events Coordinator Kathy Keeser.

REACH intern Amy Cozzaglio assisted with balloon duty during the event. [Photo by Sue Bush]

Whoopee [100.1, 94.1 FM, 1110 AM ]radio personality Eric Greene broadcast live from the carnival for two hours beginning at noon.

"We really want to support REACH," Greene said, and added that one person would be chosen from a random drawing to win a key that could start a brand-new Toyota Tundra truck. The truck will be given away later during the summer.

Deadlines Approaching For Mandatory State Health Care

Ecu-Health Executive Director Charles "Chip" Joffe-Halpern staffed a booth that provided information about the state 's new mandatory health care initiative. Joffe-Halpern took the message to cyberspace several weeks ago when the agency launched a MySpace page. The response to the Internet information outlet has been positive, he said yesterday.

"It's like a big on-line chamber of commerce," he said. "In four weeks, we've had page 2100 visitors."

While the program begins on July 1, penalties for failing to participate in the mandatory health care program do not kick in until Dec. 31. Joffe-Halpern cautioned that to avoid penalties, a person must acquire their insurance or have taken the initial sign-up steps by Dec. 1.

He reminded folks that single individuals who earn an annual $30,000 gross income or less and work for employers who do not offer health insurance benefits are very likely eligible to participate in a no-cost program offered through the Commonwealth Care initiative.

State Sen. Benjamin B. Downing was among the dunking booth volunteers. [Photo by Sue Bush]
For families of four, eligibility for no cost Commonwealth Care services is likely at gross yearly incomes of over $60,000, Joffe-Halpern said. Information about the state health care program may be accessed at a Internet web site.

As the enrollment deadlines move closer, Joffe-Halpern urged people to begin the process of acquiring health insurance.

"It's mostly young people who are not thinking about health insurance that need this information," he said. "There are a lot of people who could benefit from Commonwealth Care, but they either don't know it exists or they don't think they are eligible."

Almost Perfect

Bowey the Clown and Trevor the Games Man entertained children and more than a few adults throughout much of the carnival. The Western Gateway heritage State Park train offered hours of rides to long lines of children eager to hop on the trains child-sized wooden "passenger cars."

Four tickets to the Cole Brothers Circus of the Stars were won by Emanuella Bunt. The giveaway was sponsored by BerkshireRides. The circus is scheduled to appear in Dalton July 2, 3, and 4.

A Western Gateway Heritage State Park train provided dozens of rides to young passengers. [Photo by Sue Bush]

A vivid blue sky, vigorous breeze, low humidity and a very strong attendance created a near-perfect event, said QuitLinks Program Coordinator Jennifer Civello.

"We've had a wonderful turnout and the weather held for us," she said. "I'm very pleased."

Susan Bush may be reached via e-mail at or at 413-663-3384 ext. 29.
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